Steve Merlicek, IOOF Holdings’ star fund manager, is retiring from full-time work in funds management, from the end of June. His deputy, Dan Farmer, will take over as CIO.
Merlicek, who has taken most of the multi-manager retail funds from bottom to top quartile in his seven-year tenure as CIO of IOOF, foreshadowed his move last year. The major ratings agencies are looking to give their verdict on the transition this week.
Ratings agencies Lonsec and Zenith have noted in their reports on IOOF that Merlicek’s position overseeing the multi-manager component of about $140 billion to be crucial in their assessments of the funds.
IOOF funds are principally used in NZ by the $400 million plus Britannia UK pension transfer schemes as well as some advisers previously associated with Plan B (acquired by IOOF in 2012).
While Merlicek was untouched by IOOF’s financial planning troubles last year, which resulted in an ASIC investigation that cleared the firm of wrong doing, the issue hurt fund flows.
Merlicek joined IOOF in October 2009 after a similarly successful career of about 10 years at the helm of Telstra Super, where he was also CIO. He was the inaugural winner of the ‘CIO of the Year’ award sponsored by La Trobe Financial in 2012.
He is the chair of the retail infrastructure firm IPIF (Infrastructure Partners Investment Fund), run by former Telstra colleague Nicole Connolly, a consultant to the private equity manager Trimantium and a director of Activus Investment Advisors with another former Telstra colleague, Robert Talevski.
Merlicek also owns a farm outside of Melbourne and is a keen hiker. He will remain a member of the IOOF investment committee for the time being.
At Telstra he instigated several alternatives programs including global and local private equity, listed and unlisted infrastructure and hedge funds.
At IOOF he undertook a number of changes including merging the ‘United’ and multi-manager investment teams, revised the asset allocation process, appointed dedicated portfolio managers, implemented new risk systems and reviewed and diversified the manager line up.
Most recently he also appointed experienced alternatives manager and consultant Ray King to a senior consulting role. Dan Farmer, portfolio manager for Australian equities, was confirmed last week as the new CIO. He joined IOOF in 2010
* Greg Bright is publisher of Investor Strategy News (Australia)